Maneuver men of inked so.., p.1

Maneuver (Men of Inked: Southside Book 1), page 1

 

Maneuver (Men of Inked: Southside Book 1)
 


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Maneuver (Men of Inked: Southside Book 1)


  MANEUVER COPYRIGHT

  @ Bliss Ink LLC

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, including electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.

  Published by Bliss Ink & Chelle Bliss

  Published on July 31st 2018

  Edited by Silently Correcting Your Grammar

  Proofreader by Julie Deaton & Rosa Sharon

  Cover Photo © Harry Leonard Imagery

  Cover Model: Mitch Goebel

  Contents

  Don’t miss out!

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Epilogue

  Gallo Mystery Box

  New to the Men of Inked?

  About Chelle Bliss

  Also by Chelle Bliss

  Acknowledgments

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  Dedication

  Xanax,

  Thanks for lifting me up and pushing me through the hard times.

  The world could’ve crumbled and I would’ve watched in fascination because of you.

  1

  Delilah

  “Get the fuck out.” My father pulls over at the corner and slams on the brakes.

  I gawk at him with my mouth hanging open as he puts the car in park. The look in his eyes is nothing short of ice-cold, devoid of all emotion and completely loveless.

  “Dad, just let me drive.” I don’t move even though I know he won’t back down. He never has when he’s drunk. I keep my eyes on the flashing red traffic light in front of us, trying to keep my voice even and nonjudgmental. But really, I am judging the hell out of him. How dare he kick us out like trash? “You’re drunk, and it’s not safe for anyone.”

  “I’m done with you and your self-righteous bullshit. Survive on your own two feet, Delilah.”

  I jerk my head backward as my mouth falls open. I’m used to his drunken ramblings and angry fits, but he’s never been as cruel as he is tonight. “What about Lulu?”

  Lulu is in the back seat, oblivious to everything and somehow sleeping through my father’s tirade. My father has kicked me out plenty of times, or at least, that’s what he’d say, but I always had my credit cards and bank account to fall back on. He has never cut me off completely.

  It has been over a year since his last outburst. Well, before Lulu was born. I thought her birth would change things. I thought he’d stay sober for her, but I should’ve known better. He never found it in his heart to stay clean for me. The invisible pull of his addiction outweighed any love for his child. Why would his granddaughter be any different?

  “Leave her with me,” he snaps and leans over me, pushing open my car door. “But you gotta go.” His lip curls as he says the last word, showing the wildness the alcohol has soaked into his veins as he settles back into the driver’s seat.

  My eyes fill with tears, and my vision blurs. I hate this side of him. When my father was sober, he was a nice guy, but when he was drunk, he could give the devil himself a run for his money. Lately, he’s spent more and more time drinking, and the old him, the one I loved, barely surfaced.

  “I’m not leaving her with you,” I tell him and shake my head. I don’t care if I have to steal to make ends meet, I would never subject my daughter to my father’s alcohol-induced treachery without being there to protect her.

  He leans back against the door, holding the steering wheel with one hand while balling the fingers of the other into a tight fist as it rests on his leg. “Both of you are ungrateful little bitches. You have five seconds to get the fuck out and take the little bastard with you.”

  I move quickly at that point, but I don’t dare step out of the car without Lulu. I turn in my seat, avoiding all eye contact with the maniac next to me and pull her from the car seat. Without saying another word, I cradle Lulu in my arms and climb out of the car. Before I can grab my purse, my father speeds away, fishtailing down the wet pavement with the door still open. He swerves around the corner at the end of the desolate street, and the car door slams shut on its own.

  “Fuck,” I groan, realizing not only did he take my purse, but my phone too.

  Here I am with my little girl, no money, no credit cards, no way to call anyone, and it’s well after midnight in the middle of nowhere-good downtown Chicago.

  I press my lips to the soft skin of her forehead, letting the tears roll down my cheeks as I whisper sweet words to replace his vicious comments. “Mama’s got you, baby. I’ll always protect you.”

  Holding Lulu close to my chest, I shield her from anything and everything as I turn around, hoping to find someplace to make a call. I can’t stand on the street corner too long. Not in this neighborhood. There is bound to be someone walking by and probably not the type of person I want to ask for help at this hour of the night.

  The sound of a bell and laughter down the street draws my attention as a young couple, probably my age, staggers onto the sidewalk, practically hanging off each other. I walk toward them but don’t yell out. They look nice enough, but they are clearly in the middle of something and in the middle of a lip-lock.

  Walking quickly, I head toward the doorway the couple just walked away from, glancing from side to side because, in all honesty, I am scared as hell. Light from inside streams out of the windows lining the front of the building, falling on the sidewalk near my feet as if signaling to me like a beacon. I step forward, peering through the glass to get a better look before I dare walk through the door.

  Gallos’ Hook & Hustle South Side.

  The place looks nice enough. Not swanky or anything I’d find on the North Side, but not a complete shithole either. But it’s still a bar and the last place I’d want to walk into, e
specially with my daughter. I step backward and glance both ways, hoping to see the faint glow of a nearby gas station or drug store, but there’s nothing but darkness.

  I take a deep breath, hold Lulu a little tighter, and reach for the handle. For a moment, no one seems to notice us as we step inside. They’re too busy talking and drinking to even look up. These are not the type of people I’d see at my father’s country club, sipping martinis and other pretentious drinks while holding their noses high in the air as they try to one-up each other with the size of their bank accounts. Nope. Not even close.

  The door closes behind me, and the bell rings overhead, and sure as shit, half the bar turns around. No one yells or shoos us away. They’re too busy staring at and judging me for having an infant in a bar at this time of night. It’s like I can practically read their minds by the way their eyes are zeroed in on Lulu.

  I was thinking so far, so good, but then Lulu lets out a blood-curdling scream like she just saw the boogeyman in her dreams, and I think about bolting for the door. Instead, I softly bounce her tiny body in my arms to quiet her down and smile nervously.

  The gentleman sitting the closest to me holds his beer near his lips, looking me up and down in much the same manner my father often did when he was drunk. “It’s a little late to have a baby out, don’tcha think?” he asks, tipping his head and completely judging me as a shit mother.

  “I just need to make a phone call.” I bite my tongue to stop myself from saying something about his late-night middle-of-the-week drinking, clearly doing it often based on the size of his beer belly. Instead, I look at the floor and head toward the other end of the bar.

  The woman behind the bar is handing someone a drink and paying no attention to me or the sleazeball hitting on me. “Excuse me,” I say, tapping Lulu’s bottom as I bounce her to keep her from crying out again, but the bartender doesn’t give me the time of day.

  “I’m talking to you, beautiful,” the same man says, but the word comes out like beauful because he’s had one too many. He tries to touch me with his dirty, chubby hands, and I step sideways.

  “Ma’am,” I say, but this time a little louder.

  “C’mere,” the guy says again and moves faster than I expect, finally touching my arm.

  My skin crawls from the contact. “Stop. Please,” I beg, trying to inch away from his hold, but he only tightens his grip.

  “Harry, get your filthy paws off her, or I’ll put your ass on the ground.”

  I jump and let out a little squeak at the sound of another man’s voice I hadn’t been expecting. If Harry wasn’t scared, I was enough for both of us.

  Harry’s lip curls as his eyes finally leave my breasts to somewhere behind me. “Sorry, Lucio. No disrespect, man. Didn’t know she was yours.”

  Didn’t know she was yours? For a second, I think about not looking. If someone’s claiming me, I’m not sure I’m ready to know who he is. I glance over my shoulder with one eye closed, almost too scared to turn around even though I want to get far away from Handsy Harry.

  My eyes land on a huge chest, traveling upward to a wide set of shoulders before finally settling on a handsome face.

  “You okay?” he asks.

  For a moment, I can’t seem to form words. I just stare at him with my mouth hanging open. “I…” I pause, not sure if I am okay and too caught off guard by him to finish the rest of the sentence.

  Lucio, at least that’s what Handsy Harry called him, raises one eyebrow, looking at me funny when I don’t say anything more. When he cracks a smile, I’m a total goner.

  “Are you hurt?” he asks as his gaze slowly travels down my body. I shake my head, still rendered mute. “Is the baby hurt?”

  I shake my head again. Earth to Delilah. I better find my voice quick because I can’t imagine a guy like him has much patience for a strange woman walking into a bar at this hour.

  “I was wondering if I could use your pecs,” I blurt out, and my stomach instantly knots.

  He tilts his head to the side and laughs. “Come again?”

  Gah. I want to hide or at least go back about ten seconds and get a do-over. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my entire life. Where the hell did that come from? It doesn’t help that he’s built like a brick shithouse and the only part of him at eye level are his pecs, extremely large and, based on the looks of them, rock-hard too.

  “Your phone. I’d like to use your phone,” I correct my earlier statement, but the damage is done.

  “You only want my phone?” he teases.

  I swear his pecs move up and down, taunting me, but my eyes may be playing tricks on me. I nod, but I don’t dare speak. I’ve already done enough damage and don’t trust myself to say another word.

  “Daphne,” Lucio calls out, pulling his backward baseball cap off his head and running his fingers through his dark brown hair. Everything in the room seems to slow as he drags his long, thick fingers through the wavy strands. “She needs to use the phone.”

  The woman, Daphne he called her, reaches under the bar, lifts a glass, and sets it on the bar near me. “It’s for paying customers only. What can I get you to drink?”

  I close my eyes, wishing I could be anywhere but here. “I don’t have any money.” The words are bitter on my tongue and harder to say than I ever imagined.

  “No drink, no phone,” the woman says without an ounce of remorse and ticks her head toward the doorway. “The police station’s down the street. You could try there.”

  God, she’s a bitch. Cold as ice and not an ounce of sympathy for a woman without a dollar for a shitty beer, holding a baby.

  “We don’t treat people like that,” Lucio tells her, stepping around me and staring her down. “You know better than that.”

  “Whatever, Lucio.” She rolls her eyes and walks away like her shit doesn’t stink.

  Lucio takes a step toward me, looking down at Lulu, and I force myself to stay still and keep my mouth shut. “Follow me.” He motions for me to go with him as he heads toward a hallway at the side of the bar.

  Where the hell does he want to take us?

  “What’s wrong?” he asks, walking back toward us when I shake my head and stay still.

  “Why can’t I use the phone here?”

  Every nightmare scenario I’ve ever seen in a horror movie plays through my head. Maybe he’s secretly a serial killer, or he could be a human trafficker and my kid and I are the perfect prey for his lucrative business.

  “He’s taking you upstairs to our mom’s apartment,” Daphne, the bitch bartender, says as she tosses a white towel over her shoulder. “He’s too nice.”

  “Oh,” I mutter and feel like a fool.

  “You can stay down here with all these drunk shitheads, or you can make the call upstairs in the comfort and safety of my mom’s place. This really is no place for a baby,” he says.

  He has a point.

  I have to wait for the car service to come, and they are never quick. I don’t want to wait on the street or in the bar being hit on by drunken strangers either.

  “Lead the way,” I tell him and finally take a step forward, hoping like hell this isn’t some sort of trap.

  2

  Lucio

  The woman doesn’t take her eyes off me as we enter my mother’s apartment. I can’t tell if she’s scared of me or completely infatuated. I’ve seen the look before—wide eyes, parted lips, barely able to speak.

  “The phone’s in the kitchen,” I tell her, pointing toward the old rotary dial telephone my mother refuses to get rid of. They’ve been out of date for over twenty years and sit in museums, but she hates change.

  The woman walks toward the mustard-yellow telephone hanging on the wall across the room. “Wow. I haven’t seen one of these in…”

  I keep my distance. The last thing I want to do is spook her. I know from having a sister, every man is a potential threat. I’ve taught them as much, and I try to remember how they’d feel in the same situation.

&nb
sp; “Yeah. I know,” I say, shaking my head because my mother is a special bird. “My mother is a little stuck in the good ole days.” I smile, trying to put her mind at ease.

  She holds the baby in one arm, grabs the phone with the other, and stares at me. I don’t move a muscle. I’m barely breathing at this point. I imagine her fear is more for her baby than herself. She has no idea if I am some crazy person or the harmless semi-asshole I really am. Her gaze sweeps across my body, focusing on my arms at first and then my feet for a moment.

  She’s hot as hell for a mom. The woman doesn’t look to be more than mid-twenties. Tall, though not as tall as me, but she’s wearing heels which make her appear bigger than she really is. Her brown hair is wavy, ending near the middle of her back, but the top is pulled back and away from her pretty face.

  The blueness of her eyes is unlike any I’ve ever seen before. They’re almost turquoise, matching Lake Michigan on a sunny day. For her just having had a baby, her body is smoking hot and her tits are freaking spectacular. I almost feel like a total sleazebag for checking her out the way I am, but I’m a guy and I’m turned on because she is totally a MILF.

 
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